Mayor Bowser broke her contract with residents like me. So we’re leaving.
By Daniel Turner on July 23, 2020
During the last night in my condo in DC, I had to walk my dog an extra lap around the block because a crazy person was outside screaming obscenities. I wasn’t afraid. I just didn’t feel like getting into it with him or having to listen to his story—his “Let me just tell you something,” attempt to get money from me. It was 1 A.M., and I was tired from a night out—but more so, just tired in general. Tired of it all.
I’m a city kid, through and through. And not a recent one. Not some Nebraska transplant who moved to the city and immediately thinks of himself as a local. A woman tried that on me once. With her affected upspeak cadence, where declarations sound like interrogatories, she told me she was from “Brook-LAN?” “No, you’re not,” I retorted (obnoxiously, being the 6th generation New Yorker that I am). “You LIVE in Brooklyn. People who are really from there don’t pronounce it like that.”
My uncle Bob, the family historian (and former Congressman representing our neighborhood from Queens) traces our family in Manhattan since the 1840’s. Between my Irish dad, from the Irish part of Manhattan, and my Italian Mom, from the Italian part of Brooklyn, we have family or friends in practically every part of the city. New York is not just where we live; it’s like a family member, as loved as offspring, as revered as a grandparent, as formative as a mom and dad.
City-living in America, for decades, meant tolerating mild inconveniences so that you could be left alone, alongside millions of others.
I left that family member in 2003, when I moved to Washington, DC for work. It’s not New York, but it’s still the city, and, for the past 17 years, it’s been an exciting time to call it home. I’ve witnessed the birth of entire neighborhoods: Shaw, 14th Street, The Atlas District, Navy Yard, Ivy City, The Wharf. Parts of DC you couldn’t even drive through at one point now had Michelin Star dining and outdoor beer gardens. From abandoned streets with burnt-out buildings—many still bearing the scorched marks from the fires of the ‘68 riots—multi-million-dollar row houses were restored, new condos arose, and wine bars and gyms multiplied like Abraham’s offspring.
We put up with a lot in order to live in the city: lousy transportation, noise, traffic, pollution, and our fair share of homeless people. It’s all just a part of living in urban America. But I’ll gladly tolerate sirens and car horns in exchange for a new restaurant on the corner. For major league sports, performing arts, museums, and bars, I will put up with the occasional crazy guy on the street, metro derailment, or gridlocked traffic because an intersection is blocked by some group “raising awareness” about something or other. That’s just the price of the urban lifestyle, and as a life-long city dweller, I knew what I was paying for—and with what.
I did my part, too. My role in the fabric of urban society, overlooked but essential, was to spend my money. Eat, drink, shop, spend, tip, pay. And man, did I pay: taxes, rents, then a mortgage and HOA fees. I paid taxes on things the government deemed “bad” for me, like alcohol and cigarettes; taxes on services which organized labor deemed “bad” for them, like rideshare. I paid gas tax, cable tax, cell phone tax, and, of course, income tax. Lots of income tax.
All I asked in return was relative safety and to be left alone to enjoy the city. City-living in America, for decades, meant tolerating mild inconveniences so that you could be left alone, alongside millions of others. That was the tacit pact.
And DC broke it.
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